Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at Primary School in England

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at Primary School in England

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This essay discusses Chinese as a foreign language teaching at primary schools in England, from instruction to assessment, by comparing some popular approaches to each stage of teaching process, which lead to the conclusion on an effective approach to instmction and suggestion for further studies. In order to elaborate the issues in a wider context of modem foreign languages education, general policies and rationale of teaching foreign languages at England are explained beforehand.

Based on the consensus that 'the creation of the single European market and currency, the relaxing of trade restrictions, and closer political and industrial links have highlighted the value of cross-cultural communication, a fundamental part of which is learning language' (P. Driscoll, 1999: 1), a fresh start was made in MLPS. However the development of MLPS is complex involving the diversity of the objectives, approaches and so on. After a series of pilot programmes and policy making, the National Strategy for England Languages for All: Languages for Life was brought out in 2002 to give an opportunity for primary school pupils to leam a foreign language. These shifts in the social, economic and political environment reflect the need of the emergence and development of MLPS, and provide a support for a range of research on it.

MLPS is of inclusive, which intellectually and pedagogically draws on areas of research such as paidology, linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive and educational psychology and curriculum studies. The research on human brain, children's mind, cognition and learning behaviour, all of which feature MLPS compared to general MFL education, is to facilitate the language acquisition and education, cultural and intercultural awareness in this specific period. A major component of any research for MLPS should be follow children's progress. A range of research shows the evidences that favour the language acquisition in early age and also proposes the characteristics of children's mind and behaviours, which are beneficial to the pedagogical research on MLPS. Consequently a variety of approaches which follow both the rational of MLPS and the general MFL education are suggested. Among these approaches, the most universal and prominence feature is language activity based on appropriate teaching strategies in a relaxed and playful learning environment.

The history of Chinese as a foreign language entering the primary school curriculum in England is relatively short. However the research conducted by DCSF shows an upward trend in the popularity of Chinese at English schools. Because of the short history and lack of research on Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at primary school, the discussion on the topic is coherent with that of MLPS, which comprises common characteristics of instruction of foreign languages including Chinese. Therefore, according to the MLPS pedagogy discussed beforehand, classroom practices and assessment for Chinese as a foreign language at primary school are illustrated combined with my working experience as a Chinese teacher in a boy school in London.

POLICY AND RATIONALE

Policy Issues for Primary Modem Languages in England

The recent resurgence in the research of Modem Languages in the Primary School (MLPS) reflects the recognition of the necessity and feasibility of MFL teaching for pupils in the most European countries including England. Driscoll (1999) proposed that the development of the government commitment has been reflected mainly by three facts: a) the parents' increasing expectation of including a FL into the existing curriculum (CILT, 1995), b) the conviction of 'young is best' in terms of foreign language acquisition and c) the common-sense belief that 'practice makes perfect'. Additionally, economic factors and the incentive of promoting a growing sense of European identity were also involved in the impetus (L. Low, 1999). Consequently, there is a wide range of MFL provisions for primary schools adopted by at least 40 LEAs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, varying in purpose, starting age and the approaches to instmction. …

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